“Harry Potter!! Harry Potter!!” Anyone that hasn’t heard that name must have just awoken from a five-year coma. This series of children’s books has reignited kids’ desire to read and while doing so entertained numerous adults. I confess, I’m a bona fide “Potter-Head.” I read the first three books in three days. The day the fourth came out, I had my hands on a copy and within 36 hours, I’d eagerly and excitedly thumbed through over 700 pages of magic. These books have everything: friends, foes, romance, despair, action, family, suspense, murder – “Murder? Did he just say murder? Well we can’t let children be exposed to this.”
Sadly, it seems that this is the growing opinion of the conservative parents of America. Any work deemed even the smallest bit offensive is immediately put “on trial.” Be it literature, music, films, or television, it is equal prey to these “protectors” of our nation’s future. Children are being denied great works, the Harry Potter books being just one of many. Why? Can the children handle the violence, death or villains? Instead of denying the kids wholesome entertainment that has a little bit of an edge, we should use these avenues of expression to teach them a little bit about real life.
Maybe the easiest and most obvious thing to teach your children is the difference between fact and fiction. For the five or six year-old this might be confusing, but once they get any older, I’m sure they could figure it out. Take for instance, the Harry Potter books (I’ll be using them as examples from here on out). These novels are fantastical. Harry’s world is full of children riding on broomsticks, banks run by goblins, and owls delivering mail. When your children read this, talk to them. Make sure they realize that this is the same world in which Aladdin, Genie, Belle (Beauty), the Beast, and Ariel (The Little Mermaid) reside. All of these characters are in the land of “make-believe,” and as simple of a concept as this is, I think some of those “protectors” I mentioned earlier have more trouble catching on than my nine-year-old brother. Simply explain to them that in the real world, brooms are made for sweeping, owls for catching mice, and goblins for hiding under the bed. Let the kids know that books are for fun, just like television.
Once the children realize this difference, it’ll be easy for them to understand that this fantasy world has a bad side, as well. In the Harry Potter stories, it’s not only the bad guy that is under fire; the entire concept is under fire. Christianity has looked down upon wizardry and witchcraft since the beginning of time. This automatically puts it into the “offensive” category for many, seeing as how this religion accounts for about 75% of the population. Sorcery is the work of the devil, according to their beliefs. Seeing how murder, infidelity, theft, immorality, and profanity are also attributed to the devil, I guess we should mask our children’s eyes and tape up their ears to guard them from the real world in which they live. Things such as sorcery in a world where good guys win should be a welcome outlet for children that live in a world full of unimaginable evils. These books have good guys and bad guys. Whether the bad guys use guns, swords, or magic wands to produce evil, they won’t be able to bother us once we close the book. They are not real.
One of the biggest trials the Harry Potter books had to endure was the subject of death. Taking a big chance on unstable ground, J.K. Rowling, the author let a character be murdered in the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Most children’s authors stay away from such a heavy subject, but feeling the need to convey just how wicked Lord Voldemort is, Ms. Rowling went for it. This novel was instantly the subject of endless scrutiny, all because of this one murder. I understand how at first this content may seem too mature for children, but we should first examine the impact of the death on the characters of the book. This murder affirmed the villain’s level of malevolence and brought the good guys together. They all discussed how sad it was to lose Cedric (the victim), and how their lives would change. A few years ago, when my grandmother passed, my brother was only six years old. It was really painful having to explain to him how she’s gone and she won’t be coming back. Such a deep subject may be vast and confusing for such a small mind. If more children had a chance to experience it on a much smaller level in a book, or movie, this would open up an avenue for the parent to discuss it with them. Once they have some sort of grasp of this concept, they may be able to handle a real death in a more mature fashion.
Harry Potter books are just one example of works that come under scrutiny by conservatives in our country. I once heard the expression “if life hands you a lemon, make some lemonade.” If you are served something disagreeable, do what you can to turn it into something positive. This is what some concerned parents should do with these books, or any form of expression they don’t agree with. Can you think of a better way to get your eight year-old to read a 700-page novel?